What a lively packet of smart runs were seen in the Golden Easter Egg heats. All good quality stuff and all led all the way, or nearly so. A good dog out in front is very difficult to run down in this class, something which will be more evident in the semis and final.
Ronray Spirit probably deserves a mention, not just because it ran a very quick 29.65 but because it ran out the longer trip really well, something it has not always done. Spacecraft was on its hammer all the way.
Over Limit would now be my favourite pick if it draws a decent box. That applies even more so to Hostile. In either event I would not expect a fancy price.
On the other side of the coin, many of the placings were horrible. First Four dividends averaged $1774 over the ten races which tells you punters had great trouble getting their combinations right. This is to be expected whenever you have a problem first turn, lots of squeezing and the odd fall – favourite Luca Neveelk being the worst affected as it came to grief there. My Bro Fabio likewise found it impossible to battle through the squeeze from box 3.
The message is clear – the track has either to be dynamited and rebuilt or they have to shift headquarters somewhere else. Do you know it is now 14 years since they “fixed” the track but it has never been right? Fiddling with the shape of the rail near the turns has never worked well, at Wenty or anywhere else.
They might even find a way to offer 600m races (minus any bend start). For too long it has been a glaring omission from the NSW package. The state deserves better than that.
The way fail-to-chase rules are applied gets harder to understand the further we go.. Here are two examples from The Meadows last Saturday.
(A) In Race 3 a youngster with four wins from six runs, Ricardo Racer, bombed the start completely in its first race at the track, found trouble as it tried to make up ground at the first turn, possibly helped by unfamiliarity with the tightness of the turn, then chased hard to the finish, passing another dog on the way and right into the pen. It was outed for 28 days. Quite rightly, the trainer pleaded not guilty but to no avail.
(B) In Race 5, two well backed runners, Julie Bale and Tears Siam, came out moderately, did little other than follow the pack and finished last and second last. Neither showed any particular spark while Tears Siam is notorious for its inconsistency. Both had won nicely in the last month but were not particularly interested this time. Supporters would have been very disappointed. Neither attracted any comment of note from stewards.
The former dog chased hard, the second two could not be bothered. Which should get the penalty?
Of course, when dogs are distanced from the lure it always poses the question of whether they are just chasing the field in. Probably. But it does leave open another query – would they have chased harder had there been a more visible follow-on-lure (or a looped lure as some term it)? Even a place could be a possibility. Since stewards are highly experienced in these matters they could no doubt make recommendations to their bosses.
For my money, being a suspect for failing to chase can be a never-ending argument. There are so many factors that come into play from how the dog wakes up on the day to whether it was racing in a spot it is not happy with or whether got knocked early in the race. You can never be sure how a belt in the ribs affects a dog. It’s a vastly different story to fighting where the evidence is usually obvious. Caution is always desirable.
Still on the second example, the stewards report read:
“Coulta Rock and Nicki Fields collided on the first turn checking Nicki Fields and Julie Bale. Tears Siam and Beks collided approaching the second turn.”
Any contact between any of these dogs and any checking would have been miniscule and not worth talking about. It promotes the feeling that stewards felt they had to say something and this was as good as they could do. Not helpful.
Words of wisdom?
Premier Mike Baird in The Australian, 21 March.
“Not just heads of departments but line managers in the public service would also be judged on their performance in improving service delivery,” he said.
“I think that is something which will become very apparent, that myself and the minsters will be looking across all the metrics on a daily basis. We will want people to be held to account.”
The big interest here will be that interim GRNSW CEO, Paul Newson, who is also the boss at the Department of Racing, will have some hands-on knowledge to help him review submissions to the statutory review of the Greyhound Act. Time will tell how much has sunk in, and how well he reacts to Premier Baird’s call for action.
Paul Kelly in The Australian, 19 March.
“Reform is a lost political art in this country. The three previous PMs, Howard, Rudd and Gillard, each fell trying to implement reforms. Abbott may join this list.. What is the moral? Only a leader in the most favourable situation can afford to be honest about reform in Australia today.”
Well, maybe. But if the Liberals/Nationals win next Saturday’s NSW election, as is likely, it puts the Racing Minister in an ideal situation to bring about real reform, not just play musical chairs.